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School partnerships involving community and other stakeholders are an essential approach of addressing the diverse needs of the school community. Effective school administrators and principals collaborate with community members, families, and the business community to mobilize community resources in order to meet the diverse community needs and interests.
School principals should aim at establishing relationships or networks within and outside the school. Often, family conditions influence student learning in school settings. Thus, the principal should identify the resources; that is, families, community members, and business, which can support learning in the school.
An optimal approach of promoting school-community collaboration involves blending the school resources with the local community and family resources.
The collaborations encompass various community agencies and organizations including community-based organizations, civic and religious groups, libraries and local parks, businesses, individuals and post-secondary institutions within the community (Adelman, & Taylor, 2006, p. 123). The intent is to establish strong school-community and family connections for learning, recreation, support, and enrichment.
Additionally, communication of the school’s core priorities and vision for the community fosters a positive school image. This facilitates collaborations with the various community agencies and organizations. Establishing long-term connections requires an integrated approach that addresses the barriers to learning and links services, enrichment and recreation activities in schools.
It requires system-wide changes that facilitate sharing of learning resources and responsibilities between the school, family and the community stakeholders. School-family-community collaborations require a mechanism for sharing resources and tasks among the stakeholders.
Importance of Family-School-Community collaborations
Schools and learning institutions are situated in communities. However, often, there is little connection between schools and families or communities in the neighborhood. Nevertheless, the schools, families and the community, as entities, affect each other in one way or another. Additionally, these entities share common goals regarding socialization and education of the children.
Thus, schools principals, families and communities must work together to promote student learning and address the barriers to effective learning (Bostingl, 2001, p. 72). In particular, issues of safety, crime, child development and learning as well as poverty or economic status of families are interrelated and require concerted efforts involving all stakeholders.
Academic performance is enhanced when schools become an integral part of the community. Additionally, the collaborations contribute to staff motivation, reduced discipline problems, and proper utilization of resources. The community entities can also promote socialization, strengthen family-community life, and address social problems through collaborations with schools.
The concerns about cases of violence in schools call for connections with communities and families. Violent incidents experienced in schools have more to do with home and community life. For adolescents, the common forms of violence experienced in schools, community neighborhoods or in homes is sexual, social abuse and physical violence (Adelman, & Taylor, 2006, p. 128).
Often, the youngsters are the recipient of these forms of violence. However, sometimes they can be the perpetrators of harassment through bullying or intimidation. Clearly, violence in schools is a serious problem and a significant barrier to learning, socialization and teaching in schools and homes. As a result, a single-factor approach involving the school alone will not work.
Thus, principals should actively seek to collaborate with families and community organizations in developing prevention or intervention strategies (Cunningham, & Cordeiro, 2006, p. 145). In addition, partnership with mental health services or community social services organizations and the law enforcement is crucial in preventing violence in schools and promoting a positive school climate for learning.
Usually, families provide a direct link between the school and the community especially with regard to education of students with exceptional needs. Interventions that cater for students with unique needs require increased parent participation (Adelman, & Taylor, 2006, p. 127). Principals should seek to establish school-community connections that benefit youngsters with exceptional needs and their families.
For instance, school-community linkages can improve the outcomes of emotionally challenged students and their families. Interventions involving collaborations between the school and community social services can address the needs of this population of students.
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These include counseling sessions in schools as well as hospital and homecare programs. Establishing a system of care for students with exceptional needs requires multidisciplinary teams to monitor and maintain the care services to achieve the desired outcomes.
Importance of School-linked Programs
School-community collaborations usually aim to integrate social programs into schools and enhance linkages. Most of these programs such as immunization, substance abuse prevention programs and physical health services usually have links with school sites.
A school principal should facilitate student access to health services, foster care and childcare services to enhance specialized assistance to children or case management. In addition, the collaborations with social agencies help in expanding recreation, academic, as well as enrichment programs. In particular, art, youth sports, and music programs can be expanded through linkages with social service organizations.
Program for the prevention of juvenile delinquency and youth violence also require collaborations with social service organizations. Partnerships with the business community enhances transitions from school to work, facilitates career development through internships, job placement and mentorship programs involving various professionals within the community.
School-linked programs coordinate community and school resources to meet the needs of children and their families. Usually, a wide variety of approaches is used in school-linked services. This reflects the diversity of community resources and the variability of the needs of students in each community. The programs address the social, health, educational and psychological concerns of the students (Adelman, & Taylor, 2006, p. 131).
Principals should establish partnerships with school-linked programs in their efforts to prevent teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and juvenile delinquency among school going children. In addition, collaboration with these agencies at the state or local level is a powerful approach in addressing the student needs.
A variety of arrangements including formal and informal agreements with state or local agencies and community networks can facilitate the delivery of these school-linked services. Additionally, school-linked programs focus on introducing non-academic services to school settings to support the youth and their families.
The Specific Stakeholders in School-Community Collaborations
School-community linkages can be formal or informal and require a varying degree of systemic change to undertake their roles and achieve the desired purposes. Various school-community arrangements rely on various community resources. The plan for the collaborations will involve brainstorming sessions involving the community members to design the necessary steps.
Objectives and strategies will be the next step followed by timeline plan and monitoring and evaluation of the events. The plan will involve mapping of resources and activities of each partnership.
In particular, my plan will involve the following stages: identification of the specified areas for cooperation, review of the system status to enhance collaboration, strategies of strengthening the collaborations, and the mechanism for linking the community resources.
A multifaceted or comprehensive collaboration allows a large proportion of students and families to access their services. The programs can be community-based or school-linked where various community agencies participate in offering social and non-academic services to students.
In general, the collaborations establish intervention systems for promoting healthy growth, preventing social problems and treatment of chronic problems affecting children and their families. The first category of stakeholders is the county bodies and agencies such as the mental health and children’s health departments are significant especially with regard to substance abuse among students (Bostingl, 2001, p. 77).
In addition, partnerships with these agencies are indispensable when children with exceptional needs that need case management or specialized care are involved.
Public social services, legal probation, the county sheriff, police, and local education office can help deal with cases of violence against children at school or residential settings. Council recreation parks, courts, housing and county libraries can also address the needs of children and those of their families.
The second category of stakeholders in school-community partnerships is the mental and physical health groups. These include the hospitals, clinics, guidance and counseling centers, and family support centers.
Private community members and groups can also extend help in terms of shelter, dispute resolution, and mediation in family crisis to support the material needs and social needs of the children and their families (Adelman, & Taylor, 2006, p. 129).
Another category of stakeholders includes the service agencies, charity clubs, and organizations such as clothing and food pantry, the Rotary club and the civil society groups. Youth groups and agencies, such as the boys or girls club and the scouts, form another category of stakeholders in school-community partnerships.
Sports and fitness groups such as athletics leagues, gyms, and community-based conservation groups should be involved in non-academic activities, in the school. Faith-based community institutions including the clergy and the congregation subgroups should be involved in interventions that aim at preventing behavior problems and substance abuse among children (Bostingl, 2001, p. 81).
Other stakeholders include the career groups and clubs such as Engineers or scientist groups, cultural institutions such as zoos, museums and literary clubs. The media through radio and TV stations can also be instrumental in addressing the pertinent issues affecting learning in schools.
Community business unions, family members, and business corporations should also participate in career development of students through internships and job placements.
Parents and Stakeholder Partnerships
Effective school leaders collaborate with the community members, families, and businesses, to meet the diverse interests and needs of the school community. Partnerships involving schools and local business enterprises, families and community members play a significant role in promoting staff and student outcomes.
According to Cunningham and Cordeiro (2006), “for schools, partnerships entails sharing power between the family and the school leaders” (p. 146). Most often, the forum for sharing power involves the Student Advisory Councils and the Parent-Teacher Associations (PTA).
Various strategies can be used to promote parent/family involvement in their children’s learning. The PTA outlines six factors that encourage active participation by the parents or family in student learning.
These include increased outreach programs to community resources, involvement of parents in decision-making, regular communication, fostering parenting skills, parent involvement in student learning and through volunteering (Cunningham, & Cordeiro, 2006, p. 147).
As a principal, I would encourage these six factors in my school. As a member of the PTA, I would mobilize community resources by encouraging active participation of the parents in their student’s academic and extra-curricular learning activities.
Evidence from previous research indicates that academic performance; grades, school attendance, completion of assignments and homework and student’s overall performance improves when the family or parents take an active role in student learning (Cunning, & Cordeiro, 2006, p. 152).
As a principal, I would encourage parent involvement as an on-going mission in my school. I would ensure that the efforts to promote parental involvement in schools are in line with the changing family demographics. Usually, the obstacles to family involvement in schools are often work-related.
Kohn outlines five common complaints that parents make over student homework: low student interest in learning, increased burden to students, and lack of time for parents, family disputes, and distracters in residential settings (2006, p. 112). These factors affect parent participation in their children’s learning activities.
Often, the requirement for standardized testing exerts much pressure on educators with respect student homework. This affects the quality as the educators emphasize on quantity rather than quality. Educators are forced to cover a large portion of the syllabus prior to the standardized tests, which compromises quality. I believe that parental involvement can promote quality especially with regard to homework.
According to Bostingl (2001), McGregor’s X and Y theories of management are applicable in today’s school system (p. 87). With regard to homework, theory Y management attributes are essential in achieving high results. Standardized tests place enormous stress on parents, teachers, and families.
In light of this, I would organize a parents-staff meeting, where teachers can enlighten the parents on the requirements of the test and allay their fears or concerns. At the same forum, I would guide the parents on how to participate in their children’s learning especially with regard to homework. This dialogue will be essential in addressing the diverse learning needs of the children.
Kohn describes three approaches of achieving higher results from homework. Firstly, he suggests that, homework should comprise of any activity, academic or otherwise, that extend student learning. Secondly, household activities such as games, cooking, surfing the internet for information and watching TV shows give the student absolute control over their learning.
Lastly, children stories and readings that instill reading and imaginative thinking can also serve as homework (Kohn, 2006, p. 118). As a principal, I believe that these suggestions are vital in encouraging family and parent involvement to ensure successful student learning.
In addition, these activities are part of authentic learning that helps students to become successful in life. As a school principal, I would be to involve parents and family members in their student learning in non-academic settings at home.
Volunteers constitute a crucial part of the school community. Their roles range from tutoring to student mentoring hence influential in student learning. As a school principal, I would establish a volunteer club, which will recruit active volunteers primarily from the school comprising of school and classroom volunteers from among the staff.
Later, volunteers from the community will join the club as well as volunteers from various agencies. I would organize occasional breakfast meetings and entertainment for the volunteer club to foster a spirit of voluntarism in my school. Honors and recognition will also encourage voluntarism to become the culture in my school. This will also encourage more volunteers to join the club year after year.
Partnerships with businesses contribute significantly to successful learning in schools. I would facilitate business partnerships where local business leaders engage the students on attributes of their future citizenship. I believe that, by connecting community, family, and school resources, student health and safety can be enhanced.
In light of this, I would seek through the school board linkages with agencies such as law enforcement, social support services, and local administrators. School boards play a decisive role in policy and planning for the whole school systems in an area (Cunningham, & Cordeiro, 2006, p.124).
I would organize a series of meetings involving the school board and the various groups to strengthen the school-community strategies for a healthy and safe learning environment for students.
In particular, I would organize presentations involving all stakeholders to allow them to share their views before setting up smaller groups to implement the strategies. In relation to substance abuse and behavior problems, I would involve the law enforcement, the mental health department, the families, religious groups, and community social services.
Evaluating the Contributions of Parents and Stakeholders
On-going evaluation of the contributions of the parents and stakeholders is crucial in formulating recommendations for resource allocation to the various school-community partnerships (Adelman, & Taylor, 2006, p. 134). It provides a foundation for decision-making for subsequent steps.
It also informs future development plans and improvements (Cunningham, & Cordeiro, 2006, p. 121). I would conduct various surveys whereby I would analyze the activities of the groups against their resource utilization. The surveys would involve the families, the community members, and staff.
I would use interviews and questionnaires to establish the level of satisfaction with the partnerships and compare the effectiveness of the practices before and after implementation. The family coordinator will evaluate the parent’s involvement in their children’s learning and provide propositions from the parents on how to improve their involvement.
A participatory evaluation process is another useful approach of assessing the contributions of the community stakeholders (Adelman, & Taylor, 2006, p. 135). Participatory evaluations take into account the interests, the concerns, and the needs of the partners. The findings can be disseminated within the collaborations and ultimately improve the outcomes of the partnership programs.
I would use participatory evaluations to assess the volunteers whereby they will be involved in designing the evaluation criteria for their contributions.
My evaluation of the contributions of the parents and stakeholder groups will comprise of three approaches: process evaluation, outcome evaluation and impact evaluation (Cunningham, & Cordeiro, 2006, p. 127).
With regard to process evaluation, I would survey the nature of the activities that took place over a specified period. The methodologies for process evaluation would include interviews and in-depth surveys of the activities of the collaboration. I would rate the developments of each partner group against the goals and the level of satisfaction of the members, the teaching staff, and students.
On the other hand, outcome evaluation primarily seeks to establish the achievements of the collaboration over a specified period (Bostingl, 2001, p. 84). I would conduct surveys of new services, reported behavior changes and the objectives met over the period. This will help assess the progress achieved through the partnerships. Impact evaluation will focus on the effects of the collaboration on the student learners.
In this case, I would use statistical indicators to measure the outcomes. For instance, a decline in the rate of substance abuse or teen pregnancy in my school will be an indication that partnerships with law enforcement and community social service have positive impacts.
The diverse nature of the needs and interests of the school community calls for concerted efforts involving the school, parents, and community stakeholders for successful learning. Collaborations with parents and community members are essential attributes of a high performance leader.
As a school principal, I would encourage partnerships through school-based and community-based programs and agencies. However, the collaborations have to be evaluated for future improvements. This also ensures efficient utilization of resources in line with the objectives of the collaborations.
Adelman, S., & Taylor, L. (2006). The school leader’s guide to student learning Supports: New directions for addressing barriers to learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Bostingl, J. (2001). Schools of quality. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.
Cunningham, G., & Cordeiro, A. (2006). Educational leadership a problem-based Approach. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc. pp. 121-152
Kohn, A. (2006). The homework myth: Why our kids get too much of a bad Thing. Cambridge, MA: DaCapo Press. pp. 112-118